This review should be going up on insound in the next few days, but SWR gets it early:
Before Bob Dylan became one of the most prolific, inspirational and important artists in music history he was writing for Leeds Music and Witmark Music, hoping to license his songs to other groups and artists who were more well known. Dylan was a well known songwriter; his songs were featured in folk magazines like Broadside, but he was not known as a great singer and could make a lot more money writing songs for others. Dylan would sit in the office while another person sat with a tape recorder and someone else would be furiously writing down the lyrics.
The songs presented here leave you with the feeling that you have just opened a time capsule of your childhood memories: you remember some of them, others not so much, but everything feels personal. A number of these songs (though not these versions) have appeared elsewhere in Dylan’s extensive catalogue, mostly from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan or this series first release Bootleg Volumes 1-3 as well as a few tracks that would appear on The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Bob Dylan, along with 15 songs that have never been released before which are the main draw of this release. All the extra tracks feel like they would fit perfectly on Bob Dylan or Freewheelin’ or even something by Woody Guthrie.
These tracks, old and new, are all great finds, however my favorite part of this collection is the commentary: hearing Bob Dylan talk between, after and during his songs (calling Let Me Die In My Footsteps a “drag”), messing up, missing a beat, laughing while singing, everything adds to the charm of this set.
Dylan was still evolving as a singer/songwriter during these recording sessions, and this collection is an amazing historical document of a young folk musician who would become the greatest artist in the world.